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Coroners Bill introduced

30 November 2004

Coroners Bill introduced

Associate Justice Minister today introduced a new Coroners Bill into Parliament.

The bill sets out a new, more effective coronial system that responds better to the needs of bereaved families, Margaret Wilson said.

Key features of the bill include establishing a chief coroner to provide leadership and support to coroners, and moving to a smaller number of mostly full-time, legally qualified coroners.

"Once this bill passes, coroners will largely be employed on a full-time basis and therefore dedicated to coronial work," Margaret Wilson said. "They will be able to spend time building relationships with communities, and will travel to provincial areas, not just the main centres."

The bill takes better account of the needs of families and ensures family members are notified at significant steps of the coronial process. With the coroner’s authorisation, the family may be allowed to view, touch or remain near a body. In some circumstances families will be able to object to post-mortems, which often distress families. The introduction of transparent and uniform procedures for the retention and release of bodies and body parts will also benefit families.

Other features of the bill include enhancing inquest processes and introducing procedures and structures to manage relationships between coroners and statutory investigatory agencies.

The Coroners Bill stems from a 2000 Law Commission report that identified a numerous problems with the current coronial system. These include a lack of uniformity in coronial practices throughout New Zealand, and a perception that the coronial system does not take enough account of cultural beliefs and values.

ENDS

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